“The groans are coming more quickly,” says Rebecca Pine during the season two premiere of Under the Dome. HOW CAN SHE HEAR THE SOUNDS WE ARE MAKING? IS SHE INSIDE OUR HEADS???? Then again, she is a High School Science Teacher who makes dioramas of the Dome out of chicken wire so who am I to doubt her? “They’re getting stronger, like a pregnant woman’s contractions,” she goes on, getting really, really specific about the sounds I’m making as I view this episode. “Only instead of giving life,” she warns, “people could die.” WHUT? We all might die? How can the Under the Dome kill us? “It’s interfering with people’s brainwaves,” says Rebecca Pine, High School Science Teacher.
Okay, that’s it. Everyone, for your own safety, out of the pool. Turn off your sets. I’m here to sacrifice my brainwaves as I recap season two of Under the Dome so it does not kill your brainwaves. Don’t thank me. I’ve lived a long, full life. It is time for my brainwaves to stop working now.
Rebecca Pine is only one of several new characters to pop up out of the blue on Under the Dome season two, and according to the UtD wiki, “She will also bring a science perspective into the show.” Which shows a basic misunderstanding of both “science” and English grammar, but that’s okay! Because Under the Dome is all about misunderstanding everything.
Things start with everyone gathered in front of town hall playing the world’s worst game of Hangman. Dale Barbie has a noose around his neck, Junior Rennie (Andy Samberg’s better looking kid brother?) has his hand on the lever, Big Jim Rennie (Dean Norris of Breaking Bad) is shouting at him to pull the lever, and no one can figure out what the word is even though they’ve already guessed all the vowels and three consonants. Looks like it’s LIGHTS OUT for Barbie, and then the Dome goes from night to day, and starts making baby-birthing noises.
“Dad, what’s happening?” shouts a panicked Junior Rennie.
“Linda, what’s happening?” shouts Big Jim Rennie, reminding us that Sheriff Linda is still on the show.
But not for long. Everyone in town falls over unconscious because of magnetism interfering with their brainwaves. That sends Barbie, the Rennies, and Sheriff Linda out to the Dome which is now magnetized. Tricycles, and grills, and identical garbage cans, and lawn chairs and other things you’d expect to find on a country road are all stuck to it. And then the Dome tries to take off the actors’ pants by stealing their belts causing them to do some really unconvincing mime (“I’m walking against the magnetism!” “I’m trapped inside a Dome!”) before Sheriff Linda’s butt gets stuck to the Dome. Apparently, her booty is magnetic and also her pilot Secrets & Lies has just been picked up as a mid-season replacement on ABC (starring Ryan Phillippe and Juliette Lewis) and so a car smashes into her (magnetism!) and she is dead. Hey Sheriff Linda, looks like the Dome has a CRUSH on you.
Why does the Dome hate law enforcement officers (Linda is the fourth cop down)? Who put all those bikes and grills out on the highway? And why is all the metal sticking to the Dome except the wire fence right next to it? “That doesn’t matter,” Barbie snaps. “Linda is DEAD!” Then he runs away to call his agent and see if he can be dead next.
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Julia Shumway, Reporter With Great Hair, sees a woman drowning in the lake. Despite having a perfectly good boat right next to her, she dives into the water, and drags her out. Unfortunately this is not Mare Winningham (who was last seen floundering in the water at the end of season one, episode 10) and is instead a new character who immediately begins to behave as if she is Not Who She Seems. Julia performs some unconvincing CPR on her, and then is joined by a Dark and Handsome Man Who Is Also Not Who He Seems. He performs slightly more convincing CPR and the Mysterious Girl is saved.
The Hunky Stranger turns out to have the most television name in the history of television, Sam Verdreaux, and he also has a troubled past.
“Some things you never get over…like my sister taking her life nine years ago,” he expositions. His sister’s suicide has turned him from a rugged and understanding paramedic into a rugged and understanding alcoholic which is, like, the most glamorous job on TV (Don Draper, anyone?) and now he lives far from town in a sadness cabin. Julia starts to feel sorry and attracted to him, but then he looks at her and says, “Right now, you’ve got problems of your own,” reminding viewers that about 24 hours before she dove into the lake and rescued Not Mare Winningham, Julia Shumway had been shot in the chest and left in a coma to die.
On the other side of town, Barbie encounters Barbara Pine, High School Science Teacher. “I’ve been studying the Dome since it came down,” she says which means that she has been studying the Dome for exactly two weeks. The writers of Under the Dome decide to totally misunderstand how magnetism works by declaring that not only has magnetism put everyone in Chester’s Mill to sleep, but it can also be countered by building another magnet that will…de-magnet the first magnet? Create a very narrow strip of magnetic equilibrium where everyone can live? No one knows, but that doesn’t stop the residents of Chester’s Mill from getting together and building Ms. Pine’s Super-Magnet. As long as there’s a lead actor in charge, the people of Chester’s Mill love nothing more than group projects like lynching Barbie, building a gallows, going to war with Farmer Ollie, or tearing the gallows down.
Big Jim is trapped in his own survival shelter by the magnetism (What is it called when something ironic happens and no one cares?) where he is pestered by the ghost of Dodee, who cannot understand why she is still being forced to appear on the show even though Big Jim killed her character last season. After sticking her finger in her bullet holes because this is a Stephen King show and that’s the kind of thing that seems pretty Stephen King-ish to the writers, she reveals her total misunderstanding of both monarchies and small town political organization when she tells Big Jim, “Last warning! It won’t just be you who pays if you keep trying to make yourself King of Chester’s Mill.”
“Shut up and be dead,” Big Jim snarls back in what might be the best/worst line in the history of the show.
Then another “wave” of “magnetism” comes and everyone in town falls asleep because of “brainwaves.” Fortunately, Barbie has no brainwaves and neither does Julia Shumway. They have a romantic reunion that no one cares about, and then there’s some kind of guff with Big Jim hanging himself, but not hanging himself, and Sam Verdreaux gave Julia a knife, and she uses it to save Big Jim. “The dome didn’t want us to kill you,” Julia Shumway tells Big Jim. “It wants us to end the killing.” Which is a point it could have made by saving Dale Barbie instead of killing people with magnetism, but instead it has gotten people to want to kill Big Jim and then not want to kill Big Jim to show them that it doesn’t want them to kill anyone. That is one confused Dome.
Since this episode is written by Stephen King it also contains a dream sequence. In it, Junior Rennie sees his mom while “Basic Instinct” by The Acid plays on the soundtrack. The Acid is an electro-rock “project” which means that its music is exactly as twee as it sounds, and so is Junior’s dream. As penance, King writes himself a pointless cameo, which means that future generations will know he was aware that someone was making this TV show, no matter how much he will eventually claim that this half-baked production was mounted without his knowledge.
At the end of the episode, Angie (the girl that Junior Rennie held hostage in his dad’s survival bunker about a million years ago), has to SPLIT. She’s running the diner, which seems to have plenty of food, water, coffee, and electricity despite the fact that each of those things were the subject of major shortages last season. The only thing that the town isn’t suffering is a bacon shortage since in the two weeks the Dome has been down all the pigs in town have formed a gang and are attending high school.
But while she’s taking the diner’s garbage out to the dumpsters (Who is going to pick up your garbage, Angie????) she sees Mysterious Girl From the Lake Who Is Not Mare Winningham walking into the school. She follows her and…GETS THE AXE.
In a series of boring revelations, it turns out that Sam Verdreaux is actually Junior Rennie’s uncle, that Mrs. Rennie might not be dead and is instead outside the Dome watching TV, and that Under the Dome has traded one uninteresting mystery for another uninteresting mystery. Fortunately, according to the teaser for next week, episode two will see us get back to what’s really important: crops.
“Barbie risks his life to help Rebecca save the town’s food supply when she discovers an infestation of butterfly eggs on the town’s crops.”
Grady Hendrix is the author of Satan Loves You, Occupy Space, and he’s the co-author of Dirt Candy: A Cookbook, the first graphic novel cookbook. He’s written for publications ranging from Playboy to World Literature Today and his story, “Mofongo Knows” appears in the anthology, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination.